Dr Mobile | What a Scaffolder Will Tell You About Site Safety


By its very nature, a building sight is a highly hazardous environment. For the most part this is something that can’t be helped due to the usage of large machinery and working at great heights - by default making it a very dangerous place to work. In 2018, a survey by HSE, (Health and Safety Executive) indicated that the amount of workplace injuries has sharply risen in the construction sector. HSE revealed that 144 workers were fatally injured between April 2017 and April 2018 - this equates to a rate of 0.45 workers per 1000,000 workers. This is an overall increase of 27% compared to the most recent record of workplace deaths in 2016/17.

Taking this into consideration, workplace safety is absolutely imperative. It’s the responsibility of both the employer and employees to implement this safety into professional working practices. This guide will provide advice and guidance on the issue on health and safety on a building site or the construction industry with the aim to eliminate or reduce the risk of danger on site.

The most frequent workplace accidents

For the most part, fatal injuries are rare events on building sites.. However, here we’ve accumulated the highest statistics for the most frequent workplace accidents:
  • Falls from a height - 35%
  • Being struck by a moving vehicle - 26%
  • Hit by a moving object - 23%
  • Trapped by equipment that has collapsed or is overturning - 16%
  • Contact with moving machinery - 13%

Taking these statistics into consideration, the highest percentage of accidents involves working at a height - this would indicate that working on scaffolding can potentially involve many risk factors. It’s estimated that around 65% of all construction workers perform some kind of work on scaffolding every year. The main issue comes down to whether or not your scaffolding is safe. This indicates that for a scaffolding to be safe - it must be erected by trained professionals with the supervision of a qualified and competent person that has had experience putting up scaffolding before. It's also imperative that each employee is equipped with the proper protection and equipment they need to work efficiently and have been thoroughly trained.

Scaffolding safety

Working as a scaffolder means that you provide service on all kinds of construction projects, as in most cases, scaffolding is usually a necessity. You could be working on any kind of project ranging from, housing, factories, offices, roads or bridges. You’ll be working at various heights and potentially working over water.
This following list provides you with an overview of the tasks a scaffolder would typically do:
  • Preparing the site area
  • Working to align with plans/structural plans
  • Moving equipment manually
  • Erecting various types of scaffolding/scaffolding towers
  • Working in proximity to the general public
  • Transporting materials
  • Accessing work at height
  • Using power tools
  • Supervising activities
  • Working as a team
  • Using harnesses
  • Inspecting the scaffolding for defective issues
  • Working in alignment with method statements and risk assessments

As you can see, working as a scaffolder involves a variety of different tasks and provides valuable services to the building industry. Moreover, to sustain this valuable service, you will need the adequate training and specific to this work. To meet the required specification of the Work At Height Regulations Act 2005, scaffolding work should be organised as follows

Organisation and planning

As you can see, working as a scaffolder involves a variety of different tasks and provides valuable services to the building industry. Moreover, to sustain this valuable service, you will need the adequate training and specific to this work. To meet the required specification of the Work At Height Regulations Act 2005. Every employer organising work at height should ensure the work is properly and efficiently planned and appropriately supervised throughout. A good scaffolder will always ensure they inspect the equipment during the planning process and report any defects. The equipment must be of good quality as cheap scaffolding will have a shorter lifespan and potentially be faulty. If an accident should happen, it must be reported to the appropriate supervisor, manager or responsible person. Most employers have a ‘no blame’ culture at work, nevertheless, but reporting any issues you see is paramount to prevent further accidents from happening.

Working at height

As previously mentioned, the main risk factors involved in working on scaffolding whether it be commercial or residential properties is falling from the structure or materials dropping onto people below. The Working At Height Regulations Act states that there is an obligation to the scaffolding company and the self-employed to manage the safety of the project in a monitored and controlled manner. This particular legislation entails that:
  • Potential risks when at height must be identified and minimized
  • The appropriate use of handrails, toe guards, and edge protection which is required to reduce the hazards associated with falling
  • Installing secure and stable working platforms that are able to withhold substantial weight appropriately
  • If ladders are going to be used, this must be pre-planned, how will they be incorporated into the structure
  • You must have a scaffold inspection report
  • The necessary equipment adopted to prevent any fatal falls from the scaffolding
  • The workers who erect the scaffold must be competent working within ‘at height’ requirements

Tower scaffolding

This type of scaffolding is widely used in the building industry alongside regular scaffolding. The same hazards are still very much applicable to tower scaffolding and without the appropriate formal training and safety measures can pose a significant threat to those working on site. In 2018, a scaffolding firm based in Maidstone was fined £30,000 and ordered to pay up to £6,500 in costs and maintenance after an employee fell five meters from a scaffolding tower and died. HSE inspector Stephen Green was quoted as saying “had the work been properly planned with suitable access equipment, correctly placed and erected, by those with adequate training, the work could have been done safely and this tragedy could have been averted.” Taking this into consideration, safety for this type of scaffolding is evidently of equal importance. It is essential that you do not erect or inspect this type of scaffolding unless you are qualified to do so. You must also be sure it’s based on firm level ground with the feet adequately supported. It's recommended that prior to using a scaffolding tower that you query with the manufacturer about the recommended height regulation to work at.

The following directions apply:
  • Ensure the tower is on level dry ground
  • Do not permit any heavy equipment or materials being put on the scaffold tower
  • Don’t use the tower to support a rubbish shoot or as a hoist
  • Always use a ladder and do not under any circumstances climb the ladder
  • The tower should not be moved or altered with anyone stood on it
  • Be aware of overhead power lines before moving
  • Always make sure brakes are applied and working
  • Use a brick guard where necessary

Get a breakdown of scaffolding prices

Any building project is going to be a little costly, but it's important that you ensure that your scaffolding contractor is clear with you about the ensuing costs. Always request an initial quote, most high quality and professional scaffolder firms will happily provide this. When you get your initial quote find out what services are included within this. For example, some scaffold may not include transportation costs, or storage units within the first quote. It's also worth enquiring if customer services and aftercare is also included in this quotation - just in case of any issues that occur during or after the process. If you are totally clear on what is included in the price and what is attached to this, you can appropriately plan your budget and have everything in place prior to the construction process.

Finding the right scaffolding companies

Finding the right company for you doesn't have to be complicated. It's an easy mistake to make thinking that they're all pretty similar, nevertheless, while each scaffolding company may be providing the same service, there’s a few varying things that will determine the overall quality of your experience. Selecting the right firm will equate to the value for money, convenience and quality. Scaffolding may be a temporary necessity, however you still need to ensure that the safety, budget and insurance are in keeping with your needs. Looking for a scaffolding company with a good amount of experience is important too, this ensures that you will be getting access to good quality equipment but also their extensive experience. Hiring a scaffolding firm that is local to you, can perhaps also be beneficial in the sense that they can recommend labourers or other local resources to aid the convenience of your project if you require it.

DH Scaffold Services Ltd is a specialist scaffold design company committed to providing an efficient and cost-effective experience. Established in 2011, we have years of expertise as a scaffolding firm providing quality solutions to many happy customers. We provide an on site survey service where we visit the location of your project to understand the needs of your project. DH Scaffold Services Ltd operate entirely in the UK, so please don’t hesitate to get in contact so we can provide a free quote, or a visit to your site. We are based in Sheffield so please get in touch to ask about a potential site visit or any other general queries.